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Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro – The Connector

You move halfway around the world. The food, the weather, the products — they’re nothing like what you get back home. What do you do? For CPA Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro, that question was the opportunity.

Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro couldn’t find someone to braid her hair.

She was 17 at the time and had recently moved from Nigeria to Canada to attend boarding school. Chioma was used to being away from her friends and family, having gone to boarding school in Lagos, but there were obstacles. It was cold. The locals ate strange food (mashed potatoes?). And, to top it all off, the hair problem.

“I was moving from Lagos, Nigeria, where there’s an abundance of people that can do your hair, where you can get food that you know and are used to. It was hard to find these things in Canada,” she explains. “If I discovered someone that could braid hair, I felt I had to share her contact with my African friends here. We were all looking,” she adds with a laugh.

Chioma carried this mentality with her over the next decade — through university, becoming a CPA and launching her career — until an opportunity arose to put it into action. She had created a support network for young professional women, The Winning Circle, in 2015, and it had blossomed to over 30 members. The group would invite each other to events, share content and help each other land promotions and new jobs.

“One day, a friend of mine sent me an article about this girl doing incredible work in the States around African fashion,” says Chioma. “I thought: Wait a second, why hasn’t anybody created a hub where people can find African businesses and events like this in their community, like how we’re sharing them in The Winning Circle?”

I thought: Wait a second, why hasn’t anybody created a hub where people can find African businesses and events like this in their community, like how we’re sharing them in The Winning Circle?

Chioma turned that question into an answer: My African Corner. Launched in 2017, My African Corner is an online platform for sharing businesses, events, and positive content about people of African descent. Users can also find resources and tools to start and grow their own businesses. The goal, she says, is to expand the platform’s offerings to cities across the world, so any person of African descent can find content specific to them.

A self-described “woman of many businesses”, Chioma has spun her platform’s purpose into another career, growth consulting, where she helps smaller companies, creatives and new tech start-ups develop strategies for scaling their operations.

With so much drive and initiative, Chioma was a perfect fit for CPA Ontario’s Emerging Leader advisory group. We sat down with her to learn more about her drive to connect others, changing the perception of people of African descent and her keys to leadership.

Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro on…

On connecting others

I’m a connector. I love connecting people. With My African Corner, we’re connecting people with a hub to find businesses and positive content about people of African descent. We are also connecting business owners with resources and tools to grow and scale. I created The Winning Circle to connect millennial women in various industries with a strong peer network. The group has been really impactful; women have gotten promotions and started new ventures.


On changing how people of African descent are perceived

Today in the media, people of African descent are not portrayed as everyday people living amazing lives. This gap creates several problems. One is that a successful black professional or entrepreneur is a “unicorn”. My African Corner hopes to fill this void by telling stories of everyday people excelling in their fields. Because representation matters.


On having holistic vision

The CPA has played a significant part in my journey. Going through the program and solving business cases has really helped me think holistically about solutions to business problems, which I now apply to My African Corner and my consulting business.

On discovering the desire to step out on her own

I came to a point in my professional career where I decided I wanted to do something different and have more of an impact. I always knew I had the tenacity to start my own business. I just didn’t know what it would be. In 2016, I started reading two business books a month. These books gave me the confidence to step out on my own. I gravitated to the things I had been doing for years and built a business around them.


On the power of behind the letters

The first time I printed out my business cards for My African Corner, I didn’t have my designation on them. I included it on the next batch, and the difference was clear. You get that instant respect. It definitely makes a big difference and I’m very proud to introduce myself as a CPA.


On the three keys of good leadership

One: Lead as you want to be led. This means leading by example, but also being considerate of the person you’re leading. Get to know them. People feel a lot more connected when it’s clear that their leader has an interest in what they care about. The second ties back to that, and that’s treat people as individuals. The way Person A responds may not be the way Person B responds. They’re two different people. They grew up in different places. They have a different outlook to life. And understanding those different nuances is definitely top of mind for me. And the third one is something I’m getting more comfortable doing, and that’s always ask the tough questions. Even though everyone in the room might agree about something, make sure to ask that question that nobody else wants to ask.

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